On this day in 1995: Birth of Housemarque
On a bright morning on June 10th in 1995 I received a letter in the mail from a large game publisher, GameTek UK. The letter contained our first signed game development agreement, and the publisher had agreed to pay a small signing fee to secure the publishing rights for our game Alien Incident. The initial payment and the promised future milestone payments were enough for us to start paying wages and rent an office place to work in. This and having a publishing partner really legitimized us, transforming us from a hobbyist group into a proper company.
At that time the game developers in Finland were mostly enthusiasts who made projects that were artistically impressive, but even if they had completed games and sold them, none of them had made companies that would last for long. The Amiga and PC groups that tinkered with art, music, and coding were becoming famous in certain circles for “demos” that would push the hardware to its limits, getting shared from friend to friend as really impressive audiovisual art pieces. As a whole, these creators came to be called the demoscene and were the foundation of the game industry in multiple Nordic countries and Germany.
The team that formed Housemarque consisted of demoscene wizards from two early companies called Bloodhouse and Terramarque: Harri Tikkanen, who had started the prior in 1993 and made the first Stardust game and myself, Ilari, having started the latter with a title called Elfmania. Fusing our two teams we combined our efforts and took the legitimacy of our craft to a new level.
During that same summer, the most well-known demoscene group known as Future Crew started their own company called Remedy just two months after us. Just as the first Playstation was starting to become the new console of choice, the games industry in a small Nordic country was bootstrapping itself up, moving from bedrooms and garages into actual offices.
25 years later the Finnish game industry has grown hundred-fold in terms of personnel and ten thousand-fold in terms of revenue, and the industry has become one of the most lucrative taxpayers in a nation of 5.5 million citizens.
In recent years we have made our name by focusing on the same core values that got us into the industry in the first place: making excellent games that give you the best-in-class gameplay experience. The name Housemarque has become the gold standard for smaller games that are highly influenced by the classic genres that we grew up with.
Now that we are embarking on our next quarter century, we face new challenges from developing our company culture to exploring vastly different genres. With all the expansions and upgrades on a corporate level, the one thing that remains unchanged is our love for gameplay. Our aim is to keep that aspect strong and add to it in ways that previously wasn’t possible, so we do hope that all our fans – some even from before 1995 – will still see that same essence in the games that we ship in the future.
That letter from 1995 was the start of something great for a small group that has since then grown into a much bigger collective, who love making games that are played all around the world and bringing light and enjoyment to all gamers from our small, dark nook in the North. Hopefully it can serve as an inspiration to others who want to take their first steps on this journey, as much as it has inspired our small collective that still is learning and growing after all these years.
Ilari Kuittinen, CEO